12 Palestinians dead, 100 Injured in Five Israeli Air strikes on Gaza
Twelve Palestinians were killed and more than 100, the majority of them women, children and other bystanders were injured when Israeli military jets and gunships carried out five consecutive air raids on Gaza City and a densely-populated refugee camp Monday.
The onslaught began early in the morning when an Israeli F-16 fighter jet launched a missile on a house in Gaza City 200 meters away from the home of Abdullah Al-Shami, a senior Islamic Jihad leader, in a renewed extra-judicial assassination attempt. Al-Shami survived while 14 Palestinians, including two children, were injured.
From then on four other air strikes were carried out, the deadliest of which was at around 9:15 pm—a missile strike by an Apache gunship on a civilian car at the entrance to al-Nusseirat refugee camp, south of Gaza city.
That attack, which killed two of three men who were in the car, was followed by another missile that hit a crowd of people who had gathered to rescue the wounded. This left at least nine dead as well as over 50 injured, fifteen medical sources described as in critical condition.
Sources at Al-Aqsa hospital in Deir Al-Balah said the nine victims were civilians, who were disfigured by the air raid. They were identified as: 13-year-old Mohammed Baroud, Abdel Halim Tabaza, 23, Ahmad Khalifeh, 42, Atia Mwanes, 21, Mohammed Al-Masri, 18, Ayoub Al-Malik, 29, Dr. Zein Al-Abdeen Shahin, 30, Jaber Fuju, 25 and Hadi Ayyash, 27.
The Palestinian Authority was quick to condemn the onslaughts saying they ruined any chances for peace.
Speaking at a press conference after a meeting with the Council of Ministers, Palestinian premier Ahmad Qurei (Abu Ala) said, “These Israeli acts do not help cease-fire talks, they discourage them.”
“We have been facing the most disproportionate use of force since Adam and Eve,” said Sa’eb Erekat, chief negotiator and a member of Qurei’s cabinet. “Israeli F-16s are launching missiles at crowded neighborhoods in Gaza and the world is silent…Such attacks only add to the complications and lead to more violence.”
Following the raid on an unfinished house next to Al-Shami’s in Gaza City’s Shaja’ya neighborhood, Israeli Apache helicopters fired at least two missiles on a white Peugeot killing two men who were reportedly from Hamas and a 35-year-old bystander.
Witnesses said they struck at a time when school children were leaving a nearby playground.
Following the dramatic escalation, Israel’s Prime Minster Ariel Sharon renewed his government’s threats to “remove” Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and said he would pursue construction of the unilateral separation wall being built on Palestinian land.
Qurei slammed the wall as part of Israel’s dangerous policy of expropriating land and called on Israel to halt settlements being built to encircle Jerusalem.